Smartphone interventions can help manage chronic pain, study says

Smartphones can be effective platforms in helping women with chronic widespread pain, according to an article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research about a recent Norwegian study.

"Web-based programs delivered via smartphones are increasingly used to support the self-management of various health disorders, but research on smartphone interventions for persons with chronic pain is limited," states the article, which aimed to research the effectiveness of smartphone interventions in its study. 

The goal of the randomized controlled trial was to study the efficacy of a four-week, smartphone-delivered intervention with written diaries and therapist feedback following an inpatient chronic pain rehabilitation program. A total of 140 women with chronic widespread pain were randomized into two groups: with or without a smartphone intervention after their rehabilitation. 

The smartphone intervention consisted of one face-to-face session and four weeks of written communication via a smartphone. Participants received their smartphone diary entries daily to support their awareness of and reflection on pain-related thoughts, feelings, and activities. The diaries were immediately available to a therapist who submitted personalized written feedback daily based on cognitive behavioral principles. 

Both groups were given access to a non-interactive website after discharge to promote constructive self-management. Outcomes were measured with self-reported questionnaires and were determined using the pain catastrophizing scale, ranging from 0 to 52.

Of the 140 participants in the study, 112 completed the study with 48 in the intervention group and 64 in the control group. Overall, the intervention group reported less catastrophizing than the control group, and for a five-month follow-up between-group, effect sizes remained moderate for catastrophizing, acceptance of pain, and functioning and symptom levels.

In related news, the McKesson Foundation in October 2012 awarded a research grant to the Center for Connected Health in Boston to develop a text messaging program to improve pain management in cancer patients. The study will use text messaging and interactive voice response technology to collect self-reported pain assessments, monitor the impact of pain on patients' daily lives, and provide tailored, multi-dimensional and supportive feedback.

To learn more:
- read the journal article